Thursday, 24 November 2011

MIDDLE-EARTH (PART I)



Band: URUK HAI
Title: Middle-Earth (Part 1): The Hither Lands
Format: Cassette release on the Wulfrune Worxx label (France), cat ref WW173. The standard black and white photocopied inlays accompany this release. A later CDr pressing of this demo is only available in the "Gorgoroth" box-set (2011).
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of 66 copies

Track Listing:

Side A
01. The Hither Lands (part 1)
Side B
02. The Hither Lands (part 2)

A true story: On April 18, 1930, during what should have been a 6:30pm radio news bulletin, a BBC presenter announced "Good evening. Today is Good Friday. There is no news." It had been apparently judged that nothing newsworthy had happened. Piano music was then played instead of the current affairs update for a couple of minutes, before normal scheduling resumed.

Events of little or no consequence happen all of the time (although for a whole day of global affairs to fall into this category means that it must have truly been a stupendously dull day to have been on Planet Earth, except presumably for those being born or dying). For another example of events of little consequence, each December the Earth and sun align with the approximate center of the Milky Way Galaxy, but that is an annual event deemed to be of little importance in astronomical circles.

And, of course, consequence is relative - God is said to exist outside of time, so it is thus of no consequence to Him (although rather pressing to the rest of us).

All of which is a roundabout way of contemplating "Middle Earth Part 1 (The Hither Lands)" from everyone's favourite Austrian project, Uruk Hai. Now, whilst it's not at all bad in any way, it's not outstanding in any way either, and as a result becomes an inconsequential sort of demo that seemingly leaves little lasting impression once finished. In Nazgul's general experience such things lead to one of two avenues of action: (1) the album in question is filed quietly away, unlikley to be played again, or (2) it gets another spin with more attention to ensure that it's not being dismissed too early.

Of course, this being a demo from Hugin the only possible option is for repeat plays so back into the death-deck said demo went whilst Nazgul went about his daily routine (today's chores: exhaling the black breath onto the servants and planning a winter vacation to Minas Morgul). And, after repeated playback it has to be said that despite having all of the hallmarks of the Uruk Hai sound and being pleasant enough in nature, it still does come across as a little vapid in comparison to many of the bombastic and memorable Uruk Hai releases of the past. In a sense, it's a little like walking through the foothills on the way to enjoying the mountain scenery - perfectly respectable in context, but not quite in the same league as the lofty heights ahead.

Oh - and a word or two on the title as 'hither lands' is an unusual phrase, it has to be said. It transpires that the word 'hither' is an archaic part of the English language - derived appropriately enough from Middle English - and in essence means nearer, or close, or more specifically 'of a side or part (especially of a hill or valley). Originally Nazgul had wondered if it was a mis-spelling of 'hinterland' (the land directly adjacent to and inland from a coast), only because the more common use of the word 'hither' is in the context of giving someone a 'come-hither' look in an alluring or seductive manner. This brought to mind all sorts of odd images of doe-eyed Orcs milling around the Misty Mountains in search of passing hobbits to seduce, but happily it's nothing of the sort!

The cover is rather tasty though, with an erupting volcano spewing forth lava. This must have looked positively spectacular in its original colour version....

Overall, rather a transitional piece of music in the overall canon of Uruk Hai releases: It's typical of the lengthy, almost beyond-epic releases of this period (of which there were quite a number) and perhaps suggests that some rigourous self-editing should sit alongside the ever-flowing creative thinking that wafts almost daily from the bastions of W.A.R. in Austria. Then again, it could equally be argued that as a non-musician Nazgul should keep his opinions to himself and knows nothing of the dark arts of recording such things! The answer is probably somewhere in the middle, and goes to demostrate the high standards attained by Hugin through his releases as a whole when a demo as good as this one just fails to keep pace with those classic releases that have gone before.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

REHEARSAL CD1 - update

Band: HROSSHARSGRANI
Title: Rehearsal CD1
Reason for update: To show off the recently unearthed original colour artwork!

This private demo pressing (WAR008) was covered by Nazgul back on 23 February 2010, and at that time was received very well. The 4 tracks recorded were not intended for commercial sale, but as an item for close friends, which is why it remains a pretty obscure demo all round.

The curious amongst you may have occasionally wondered what some of the black and white photocopied covers of Hugin's many releases would have looked like in their original guise. Indeed, it had been mentioned in posts gone by that some (if not all) of Skogen's original covers on Wulfrune Worxx are in colour, which must make for a fabulous sight as the monochrome versions are often excellent.

Well, here's a rare opportunity: a chance to see the original construction used for this Hrossharsgrani CDr in all of its glory. The image below shows that the orginal photograph used on the back of the inlay was taken on 28 November 1999 (the details become unclear after photocopying) and that Hugin had signed the photo with his gold marker pen (this appears white on the copy).


More importantly, however, it shows the cover artwork in a much different and less harsh light: the black and white cover is very grainy by comparison, giving the fortification illustrated a harder, more evil edge (which - quite possibly - was the intention for the final image all along). The colour version, conversely, uses quite gentle watercolours and shades and to these eyes makes for a more dreamy image. Love those colours used in the sky around the top of the mountain, too. Try comparing the two covers below for yourself:


So there we have it, a rare Hrossharsgrani inlay booklet from circa 1999 deconstructed for your delight and fascination. As a final obervation, one assumption that it seems fair to make is how the home computer market has changed this process over the last decade. In the current age of powerful graphic design packages, enhanced processing power on even the cheapest laptop, and comparatively cheap colour printing it is presumably a more straightforward and affordable task to produce high-standard colour covers to accompany modern releases. Not so a decade or so ago, when hand-made collages of actual photos stuck on sheets of paper next to physical drawings or pieces of art were needed to knock out a demo cover. Food for thought.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Infernal War zine #13


Band: URUK HAI
Item: Infernal War zine #13
Reason for entry: This particular issue has an Uruk Hai track on an accompanying free CD

Track Listing:
01. Watain * Malifeitor 6.58
02. Aborym * Psychogrotesque III 4.05
03. Typhus * My Throne Is In The Kingdom Of Hell 5.32
04. Uruk Hai * The Fall Of Gil-Galad 5.46
05. Blutmond * Working Poor, Yuppie Yeah! 3.55
06. Kozeljnik * Void To Final Consumption 7.25
07. Schammasch * Black But Shining 8.52
08. Ghost Kommando * Sail The Seas Of Denial 3.07
09. Scarcross * Der Fluss 8.35

Were you to revisit the Blog for 26 July 2011 you would find mention of Infernal War zine #12, principally for its inclusion of a then unreleased track from the Uruk Hai CD reissue of "In Durin's Halls (Return To The Mines Of Moria)". Who would have believed that the very next issue of this German-language zine would have featured yet another Uruk Hai song, this time 'The Fall of Gil-Galad' from the tape release "Gil-Galad (The Whole Story)".

Nazgul reviewed this Depressive Illusions tape release back on 5 March 2011 and one of the comments at the time was how frequently the Gil-Galad songs had come up on various releases in 2010 and 2011. Since that post, another two iterations containing relevant songs have arisen including this one, so it seems a fair conclusion that Gil-Galad is here to stay!

The song as previously described is nicely composed and very 'gentle' compared to the roaring thunder and fiery belches contained on other tracks on this compilation disc. A welcome change of pace to these ears, although an incongruous pairing to those as yet unfamiliar with the Uruk Hai modus operandi.

There's not much else to add in this brief update, save to note that there is an advertisement in this same zine that features both the reissued "In Durin's Halls" CD and the yet-to-be-released (at this time) "Cirith Ungol" demo from 2010. That latter release has now come out, and in a variety of interesting pressings too, so it's one to look forward to in a forthcoming episode of your favourite Hugin-themed blog...!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

A.M.F. Productions > publicity material

What's this then, Nazgul? It's a selection of promotional advertisements for a variety of Hugin's releases on the A.M.F. Productions label
Where did they appear? Mostly as flyers and inserts to packages in orders from the label to customers

Digging around in the Castle dungeons (as one does) Nazgul came across these fine images from Alexander Ivanov, erstwhile owner of the A.M.F. Productions label and all round splendid fellow.

Back in the early-mid 2000's many an Uruk Hai release would appear on this label - based in Sofia, Bulgaria - as demonstrated by the variety of flyers seen here.

Most were split releases, sometimes with a band indigenous to that part of the world, and some rather good demos were formed as a result. Notable bands on these split releases included Valar and Symbiosis The vast majority of releases were in tape format, with the one notable exception being the "Quenta Silmarillion" CDr release for which we had an update only recently.

There are some real 'old school' ambient classics on this label, not least the tape version of "A Night In The Forest" (shown above), which had a bonus song and thus differed from the CD pressing. And here's a little heads up for you - there's a new Uruk Hai boxed set on the way that will release on CD format a lot of these old mid-2000 demos including the formerly tape-only bonus tracks including this particular album: more of that another day!

A.M.F. also championed some of Hugin's other projects apart from Uruk Hai - the image above shows the Hrefnesholt split tape release "United By Heathen Blood", which featured Alexander's own project Bagatur alongside Italian ambient artist Symbiosis.

There is a proud legacy of releases on this label that chart and define the early development of the Uruk Hai sound, and having so many of these original releases in the collection is a real joy and pleasure for Nazgul.

Nazgul's thanks for the images in this post go, of course, to Alexander himself, who was kind enough to send them over to Castle Nazgul to keep in the archives.

DOOMED TO DIE




Band: Nachtfalke
Title: Doomed to Die
Format: Full-length CD release on the Christhunt Productions label (Germany) in 2002, no catalogue reference. Full colour inlays, matt black disc. This was also released as a picture disc vinyl album on the same label.

Track Listing:
01. Valhalla 05:16
02. Pestkrieg 07:06
03. One Home of Once Brave (Bathory cover) 06:51
04. Fallen Heroes 07:42
05. Einherjer (Doomed to Die) 08:04

Almost exactly one year ago (12 December 2010) we visited the "Land Of Frost" by German horde Nachtfalke to discover that our prolific friend Hugin had contributed lyrics to the project as well as one instrumental track, 'The Windlords'. That release was from 2003, and was Nachtfalke's third full-length album. Preceding it was "Doomed To Die" in 2002, notable in this anthology of all things Hugin for the fact that of the five songs all bar one had the lyrics written by our Austrian maestro for performance by Occulta Mors. This appears to be a little known fact, but is fully acknowledged in the credits to the inlay in both the 'hails and thanks' list and under the printed lyrics themselves.

"Doomed To Die" was - and remains - a well-regarded album in its genre, as the following online review from Metal Archives gives you a flavour of:

"Sometimes I wish all Viking based metal was this awesome. Sure your more death metal based bands like Amon Amarth are also great for headbanging to, but when it comes to Black Metal that is based on nordic paganism it is often a rather disappointing affair. The use of folky melodies is something that fits well into the more light metal genres, but the pure energy and raw quality of this album make [probably] the best album in the viking-subsection of black metal. Lyrics on the album are great as well. Sure the whole Viking thing can get cheesy, but the lyrics here are about as tasteful as you will get and the backing music really lends the lyrics the intense background and fury that is needed to make them effective.

"Doomed to Die" is a very solid album and does well to preserve the legacy of Moonblood as well as to further establish Nachtfalke's sound. There is a good balance between the original songwriting style of Occulta Mors and the strong Bathory influence, even working a cover song into the mix without sacrificing the flow of the album. All of the songs work well together to create a cohesive album, rather than a mere collection of songs."

And so, to complete this update of one more of Hugin's contributions to the musical canon, here are those lyrics in full:

Valhalla
Beneath the Mountain's arm
Within the wizard's vale
A great ring-wall of stone
Like towering cliffs
Stood out from the shelter
Of the mountain side
Through years uncounted
Had stood that ancient place
That man called Valhall
Welcome, my lords, to Valhall...
From the north we came

To a battle we ride
Hold high our hand
With Odin on my side
With axes of steel
And bloodred swords
Killing the enemies
In the name of the Gods
Valhalla - open the gates

Valhalla - home of the Gods
Valhalla - open the gates
Valhalla - A warrior's dream
The skyline's in flames

By the power of Thor
The hammer crushes down
Our victory is near
With power and might
Warriors of steel
Hallowed by the fight
Valhalla is near
Valhalla - open the gates

Valhalla - home of the Gods
Valhalla - open the gates
Valhalla - power and might

Pestkrieg

For blood and honour we fight
In hundreds of battles we stand
Mjolnir the hammer is on our side
Swing our swords and raise our hands
When Hel comes to earth

Goddess of suffer and dead
She will open the gates
Unleash the underworld
Triumph or death - Pestkrieg!

War in northland - Pestkrieg!
Triumph or death - Pestkrieg!
Death of the Gods - Pestkrieg!
Cross the river of death

We stand and fight till we die
On ancient shores of all evil
We raise again our swords

Fallen Heroes

Great battles under the north star
Fighting for honour and blood
With iron will under the sun wheel
Hallowed be the fight
Remember the fallen heroes

It's a fine day to die
Heroism in the blitzkrieg

Baptized with flesh and steel
Bounded by the sun wheel
Hallowed be the war
Remember the fallen heroes

It's a fine day to die
Marching through the ruins

Hold high our right hands
Killing under the sun wheel
Hallowed be the death
Remember the fallen heroes

It's a fine day to die

Einherjer (Doomed to Die)

Open - the gates of Valhall
Under - the sign of Odin's eye
Long - swords of black steel
Einherjer - dark faceless horsemen
Riders - with the power of evil

Shadows - black like the night
Poisoned - the weapons of hate
Einherjer - warrior's from Asgard
Fight immortal men - doomed to die

Fight dark riders - doomed to die
Fight out of Hel - doomed to die
Fight Einherjer - doomed to die
Fire - the earth freezes over

Night - conquering the lands
Evil - throne of the dark lord
Einherjer - creatures of war
Demons - from the old world

Eternal - the greed of death
Undead - ghosts of Mirkwood
Einherjer - kill, fight and die
Fight immortal men - doomed to die

Fight dark riders - doomed to die
Fight out of Hel - doomed to die
Fight Einherjer - doomed to die

Saturday, 12 November 2011

EINE SELTSAME REISE DURCH DIE NACHT




Name: B-MACHINA
Title: Eine Seltsame Reise Durch Die Nacht ('A Strange Trip Through The Night')
Format: 5" CDr released in 2008 on Hugin's own W.A.R. Productions label (no catalogue reference). This version has the disc in a black paper envelope, sandwiched between various colour card inserts and housed in a clear plastic wallet. A business card size inlay accompanies the disc and shows the edition number. There is also an 'ultra-limited edition' version of this release, which came with a bonus white t-shirt.
Edition: 44 hand-numbered copies, of which the first 5 constitute the die-hard version.

Track Listing:

01. Eine Seltsame Reise Durch Die Nacht 79.55

"What a long, strange trip it's been", Robert Hunter (of Grateful Dead fame) once said, and whilst he wasn't residing on Planet B-Machina at the time (and very probably wasn't entirely fully resident on Planet Earth at the time either, come to think of it) it's a fitting sort of introduction to this accomplished yet indescribable B-Machina release.

One of Hugin's own releases, and done at around that time when the format for W.A.R. Productions CDs was becoming consistent in its use of postcards, magnets and business card inlays (see also, for example, Ceremony of Innocence and other B-Machina releases of this period). Some of the larger cards advertise contemporary B-Machina releases, whilst some promote the band itself. Present on this release is Max, who you will remember adds a flourish of acoustic guitar to the otherwise predominantly industrial machinations of the band's music (and Nazgul uses that word in its broadest context!).

Now, with the best will in the world Nazgul isn't going to sit down and try to explain every boom, whoop and whallop that this nigh-on 80 minute demo presents to the listener. Not only would you be utterly fed up with him trying to do so, it's an almost impossible task given the sheer scale of the piece and it's peculiarities of sound and structure. It's hard enough putting congent thoughts down about 4 or 5 minute B-Machina tracks, let alone a magnum opus like this. Is it any good, you might reasonably ask - well, yes, it is but let's be honest: you do have to be in the mood for this sort of endeavour (or be prepared to have it wafting around in the background like some strange subliminal experiment) as it's hardly the sort of music that you'll be humming along to. The sheer length of the piece makes it a rather intimidating experience too - it is a long, strange trip when all is said and done, so in terms of fulfilling the brief in the title you can't fault the chaps on this one.

Nazgul had held back from posting this release on Honour and Darkness as it was until very recently the only B-Machina/Bonemachine item left in his collection that remained unreviewed. In the last month or so, however, no less than 4 new items have been identified and gathered into the Castle library (something of a miraculous volume given the paucity of remaining items left out there to find) so that's good news all round! One of these 4 items is a controversial release that will stir up some arguments and debate previously voiced on these pages, so keep your eyes peeled for that one...

All of which leads us to Nazgul's trivia question for the day: what is white, has one eye, and accelerates to 81mph (130kph) in approximately 1.8 seconds to a maximum height of 207ft (63m) whilst pulling 4.7G? You're baffled, you say?

Why, it's a B-Machina 'Eine Seltsame Reise Durch Die Nacht' t-shirt on the UK's fastest and tallest launch roller-coaster of course, as modelled so elegantly below by Nazgul whilst sitting alongside the charming Mrs Nazgul

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

ELISABETHA promotional CDr discs

Band: ELISABETHA
Items: A collection of CDr discs with samples and snippets for various releases by this project
Format: Silver CDr discs, some in bespoke paper sleeves with band logo, others hand-written and in plain cases.
Edition: Presumed to be one-off items as they were never intended for commercial release

One of the unique properties of the Elisabetha recording output was the blending of narration and sound effects together with black metal and neo-classical music, thus literally creating a story (often likened to a play acted out on the radio) with ferocious or genteel musical accompaniment. Classic albums in this vein include the debut "Durst Nach Unsterblichkeit" and "Demeter" with a Dracula theme, and more recently "Über das Prinzip der Unschuld" which takes its inspiration from the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

The group of discs illustrated above form part of Nazgul's collection and cover a variety of these older albums. Many contain just a few minutes of sampled dialogue or sound effects, whilst the odd one will have a particular song - a good example being the cover of the Countess track 'The Priest Must Die' that appeared on the 2003 release "Vampyr".

You can imagine the unholy triumvirate of original members swapping these back and forth between themselves as the early albums were created, and in latter years the vocal parts of Seigor being laid down in this manner for inclusion on the final album.

Contents of the discs include samples for the tracks 'Morella', 'Lucy', 'Ein Traum In Einem Traum'; early 2003 snippets for 'Huren Dracula's' and 'Einleitung' and text passages for 'Zuruckgewonnene Jugend'.

With little opportunity to have Elisabetha items on the blog due to the largely dormant nature of the project this might be the last post from this band for a while, so make the most of it!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

ODIUM RECORDS PROMO COMPILATION [V/A]



Band: URUK HAI
Title: Odium Records Promo Compilation
Format: Silver compilation CDr in a black and white photocopied sleeve released by Odium Records (UK) circa 2003. Released directly from the label and/or accompanying a copy of its infamous Depravity zine. Unusually, the inlay opens up to the left as one looks at the cover, e.g. in left-handed format.
Edition: unknown

Track Listing:

01. Odium * no title (from the "Blood" demo, 1998)
02. Anubi * Menuilio Paslaptis (from the "God's Pantheon" demo, 1993)
03. Odium * Dreams (from the "Hatred" demo, 1999-2000)
04. Meressin * When the candle's already lighted (from the demo "Satan, oro te, reo portas patere", 1994)
05. Uruk Hai * Seelenwarderung (from the "Elbentanz" demo, 2000)
06. October * no title (from the "October" demo, 1998-2003)
07. Excarnation * Excarnation (from their self-titled demo, 2002)
08. Soman * Attack, Attack, Attack! (from the demo "N-Stoff", 2003)

From the scabious and underworldly realms of Philip Knight's Odium Rex label comes another filth-covered abomination, compiling a number of bands released by the label over the period 1993 to 2003. As ever, an eclectic range of music is on offer ranging from the nascent primal ambient tones of Odium (the band, Mr Knight's own weird and wonderful creation), Uruk Hai, Anubi and October (another midget-fuelled Knight project) to more 'in-yer-face' outings full of piss and bile from the likes of Excarnation and Soman.

Some of these bands have appeared on other Odium compilation CDrs and one has a sad story unfolding around it: the Lithuanian band Anubi split-up when in March 2002 the main driving force behind the horde - Lord Ominous - died in a sailing accident on Lake Michigan. Also featured and from Lithuanian are Meressin, and are fairly accurately described in one online review as, "fitting much better in the same fold as the older (90's era) thrash/heavy metal bands (Celtic Frost comes to mind at times when listening to Meressin), although you can sense a black metal "atmosphere" hanging over the music".

Excarnation prove to be a noisy bunch from Warwickshire in the UK. The name of the band refers to the burial practice adopted by some societies of removing the flesh of the dead, leaving only the bones, which is wholly appropriate as the music could flay skin at 50 paces. Never say Honour and Darkness isn't educational as well as entertaining. Final band Soman is a mystery to Nazgul, as apart from being Italian (and just as noisy as Excarnation) there is little else I can tell you about them, other than prolonged exposure to their music is probably sufficient to remove moss from walls and would be a fool-proof way to rid yourself of unwanted neighbours.

The reason for the existence of this collection in Castle Nazgul is of course the presence of the mighty Uruk Hai at track 5, with the final track from their 2000 demo "Elbentanz", which clocks in at over seven and a half minutes in length and is easily the longest song on this collection. Reviews of "Elbentanz" have ranged from fair to scathing online, but you know what: this is something of a quaint release when viewed alongside more recent Uruk Hai demos, and still very listenable even today. Sure it's a basic keyboard track, but it's competent and has a good strong melody to it, so what's not to like? The really old Uruk Hai material is still worth tracking down even to this day (some 12-13 years after its original release) as it charts, if nothing else, the journey that the project has been on over the past decade or so.

The inlay gives some interesting information about the various demo releases that these tracks are drawn from, including the information that the "Elbentanz" demo is issued in an unlimited pressing, which is contrary to the original plan of 100 copies that we saw recently on the artwork for the promotional version of the demo designed by Hugin.

Guaranteed not to be found anywhere soon, this is another interesting collection from Odium and even now gets the occasional airing at Castle Nazgul.

Monday, 7 November 2011

BLACK BLOOD WHITE HAND > photo session

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Black Blood White Hand
Reason for update: Previously unseen pictures from the album photo session of 2010

Housed in a nice bespoke paper sleeve as shown above, this is another one of those unique items that Hugn has kindly graced the Castle library with. It is a CDr of a variety of photographs that formed part of the 2010 session to shoot the cover and inlay artwork for the epic "Black Blood White Hand" release.

The pictures that you see are not on the final digipak artwork in these versions, so form something of a special collection that - as far as Nazgul is aware - is probably only available to see on Honour and Darkness!

They feature, of course, the lovely Lucifera, model and all round nymphette of the woods. More famously known for her work appearing on other black metal releases, one hopes that her presence on the more ambient work of Hugin's Uruk Hai will have been a welcome release from the black leather and darkness of the likes of Dimmu Borgir's album covers!

There were plenty of images on this disc, but in order to keep this post to a manageable length Nazgul has chosen some of his favourites. For those keeping track, other session photos of Lucifera in white adorned the front cover and rear inlay tray artwork of the digipak, whilst the photos of her in purple below were part of the shoot for the picture disc CD itself. The photo in burgundy at the top of the post was part of the session that did not end up on the album at all.

If you ever wondered what an album could have looked like with alternative artwork or photos in place, then wonder no longer, for here is the perfect way to visualise the potential outcome!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Hugin's 'devil horns'

What the devil is that, Nazgul? Why, it's a piece of original piece of artwork from Hugin!
Where did it come from? The fevered mind of our favourite Austrian musician
Where does it live? On the library wall, in Castle Nazgul

Something a little different in this post - a piece of hand-painted artwork from the apparently mutli-talented hand of Hugin. Crafted during a lull from creating demos as a gift to his old pal Nazgul, this picture portrays the 'devil horn' motif, which is worthy of a little explanation. Traditionally some people hold that when confronted with unfortunate events, or just when these are mentioned or suggested, a person wanting to avoid that fate could resort to the sign of the horns to ward off bad luck (think of it as a more vulgar equivalent of knocking on wood).

It's become a popular gesture in rock music, particularly in the metal genre, but the history of its use in this context dates back longer than you might imagine. It was the 1969 back album cover for "Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls" by Chicago-based psychedelic-occult rock band Coven where band members are shown giving the "sign of the horns" correctly, and the album included a Black Mass poster showing members at a ritual making the sign. Starting in early 1968, Coven concerts always began and ended giving the sign on stage. Funnily enough the band also recorded a song called "Black Sabbath" on their 1969 album, and one of the band members is named Oz Osborne - not to be confused with Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath infamy!

In popular music, the cover of The Beatles' 1969 "Yellow Submarine" album has the cartoon of John Lennon's right hand is making the sign above Paul McCartney's head. For many fans, this was one of the many 'Paul is dead' clues although many think it is possible that the cartoonist misrepresented the sign for "I love you", which is very similar and more in keeping with the band's public message and image. However, this 1969 cartoon is based on many photos of John Lennon making the hand sign in 1967, pre-dating even Coven in that respect!

Beginning in the early 1970s, the horns were known to some as the "P-Funk sign" to fans of Parliament-Funkadelic. It was used by George Clinton and Bootsy Collins as the password to the 'Mothership', a central element in Parliament's science-fiction mythology, and fans used it in return to show their enthusiasm for the band. Collins is depicted showing the P-Funk sign on the cover of his 1977 album "Ahh... The Name Is Bootsy, Baby!" Frank Zappa can also be seen making the gesture in the 1977 film Baby Snakes.

It has a variety of meanings in heavy metal sub-cultures, where it is known by a variety of terms, most commonly 'maloik', 'metal sign', 'horns' or 'metal horns', among others. A 1985 article in US magazine Circus states that Gene Simmons of Kiss was influenced by Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P. in 1977 after watching Sister perform in Los Angeles. Blackie had come across a hand salute known as the corna in an occult book and had started using it during live performances. Simmons appears to be making the sign with his left hand on the cover of the 1977 Kiss album Love Gun. Simmons has later claimed - noticeably in the special features segment 'Satan's Top 40' in the movie "Little Nicky" - that he plays his bass with his plectrum in his middle two fingers so when he raises his hand, he automatically draws the horns.

The late, great Ronnie James Dio was known for popularizing the sign of the horns in heavy metal. His Italian grandmother used it to ward off the evil eye and Dio began using the sign soon after joining Black Sabbath in 1979. The previous singer - the immortal Ozzy Osbourne - was well known for using the "peace" sign at concerts, raising the index and middle finger in the form of a 'V'. Dio, in an attempt to connect with the fans, wanted to similarly use a hand gesture but not wanting to copy Ozzy he chose to use the sign his grandmother always made. The horns became famous in metal concerts very soon after Black Sabbath's first tour with Dio and the sign was later appropriated by heavy metal fans under the name "maloik", a corruption of the original term 'malocchio'.

However, Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath can be seen "raising the horns" in a photograph taken in 1971. This would indicate that the "horns" and their association with metal occurred much earlier than either Gene Simmons or Ronnie James Dio suggests (the photograph is included in the CD booklet of the Symptom of the Universe: The Original Black Sabbath 1970–1978 compilation album).

Whatever the derivation, the horns essentially signify that one should 'rock on', so here's to many more years of Hugin doing just that!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

QUENTA SILMARILLION - update









Band: URUK HAI
Title: Quenta Silmarillion
Reason for update: Cassette re-issues of this long-deleted demo. There are effectively two versions of the reissue, both coming out in 2010: The first is a limited edition tape on Hexenreich Records (Estonia), cat ref HXNRCH027, with the full demo on both sides in a two-sided colour-inlay. The second version splits the song in to two parts, and was issued as part of the Split Series on Wulfrune Worxx (France) with 'Part 1' (cat ref WW98) backed with Hrefnesholt's "Fuchtelmandl" and 'Part 2' (cat ref WW100) backed with Hrefnesholt's "Dunklmoos" demo.
Edition: Hexenreich tape limited to hand-numbered 50 copies. The Wulfrune Worxx tapes came in edition of 66 hand-numbered copies each.

Although this release has been covered historically in Honour and Darkness the actual meaning of the title has not been discussed, so let's immediately put that particular issue to rest.

'Quenta Silmarillion' literally means 'Tale of the Silmarils' and is the third part of The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien (the longest part in the book, consisting of more than twenty chapters). Quenta Silmarillion deals with the history of Arda following the entrance of the Ainur as the Valar. The initial shape of Arda, chosen by the Valar, was of a symmetrical continent lit by two lamps: one in the continent's north, and one in the south. However the lamps were destroyed by the vicious Melkor. Arda was again darkened, and the lamps' fall spoiled the perfect symmetry of Arda's surface. Two main continents were created that are of concern to the story: Aman on the far West, and Middle-earth to the East, over the Great Ocean.

Following this, Melkor hid himself from the Valar in an enormous fortress, Utumno. He also surrounded himself with horrible beasts, many of them Maiar in the form of fell animals, known as Balrogs. Balrogs were to remain his most faithful servants and soldiers ever after. The Valar then made for themselves a home at the utmost West, upon Aman. Then the Valar began to reshape Arda yet again, making it habitable and preparing it for the coming of the Children of Ilúvatar: Elves and Men. However everywhere they went, Melkor followed them spoiling the fruit of their labour and damaging their achievements. Thus, the whole Arda was marred by Melkor's anger, envy and lust of power.

Utumno did not protect Melkor, however. He was taken prisoner and sentenced to three ages (about 9,000 years) of imprisonment. Utumno was laid bare; but all its evil was not destroyed. Before Melkor was taken captive, Arda witnessed the Awakening of the Elves, the first-born Children of Ilùvatar. Elves are described as anthropomorphic beings, who, however, are immortal and possess many virtues (beauty, health, ability to communicate with nature), beyond the share of Men. The Elves were met by the Valar and invited to join them in the West; however Melkor managed to reach some of the Elves even earlier. It is said that from them he bred the hideous race of Orcs whom both he and his follower Sauron used as soldiers.

At some time between the imprisonment of Melkor and his release, the Valar created the Two Trees, Laurelin and Telperion, which filled Arda with light. There arose a mighty Elf among the house of Noldor, named Fëanor. Fëanor was skilled in crafts and his greatest achievement has been the making of three wonderful jewels, the Silmarils. The Silmarils contained the light of the Two Trees of Valinor (as the land of the Valar was known). By that time Melkor's captivity was over but through a vicious design he managed to destroy the Two Trees and to steal the Silmarils. Then he fled eastward, to the Middle-earth pursued by the furious Fëanor.

One Silmaril became a bright star; a second Silmaril was sunk in the water of the Great Ocean, and the third was lost in the depths of the Earth. Thus no trace remained on Middle-earth of the Two Trees of Valinor; but their influence lived on in the elements: air, water and fire/earth.

Given that history, you can see how the final demo became a pretty lengthy piece of music! However, the origin of the 'Quenta Silmarillion' release is also convoluted as past posts have alluded to. There exists an instrumental with a similar name as the final song on the "Lieder Aus Mittelerde" tape (the 4.26 version 'Quenta Silmarillion (Outro)' version) but also a 44.18 version which was on the self-titled "Hrossharsgrani" demo tape , both recorded in 1999. This version was extended to 61.13 in a third iteration of the piece on the demo "Ea", although these two longer versions never actually made it onto a 'proper' release as such, since both the self-titled release and "Ea" were one-off versions recorded for Hugin's friends only.

The track finally was issued to the public on CDr by AMF Productions as an Uruk Hai song - advertised in fact as "Pagan ambient with a deep and mystic atmopshere - the first ever Uruk Hai rehearsal session" recorded between 21-27 September 1999 - and had become an epic 78.39 track. For listeners keen on well-crafted ambient soundscapes (and Nazgul would have to assume that is you, gentle reader, as you've taken the time to get this far) then musically this demo should be right up your street. Effectively out of print at AMF for years (some CDr copies very occasionally surface, at a rate of about 1 every 5 years!) the very welcome reissue on two labels gives an excellent opportunity for the Uruk Hai fan to finally get his or her ears around the piece.

The Hexenreich version is now sold-out at the label, so the two parts on Wulfrune Worxx are your most likely source for this release (and you'll definitely benefit from the fact you'll get a Hrefnesholt demo on the reverse side too) and your best starting point to buy one would be Hugin's Uruk Hai Facebook page.

Incidentally, Nazgul apologises for the quality of the photo for the Hexenreich edition - on unfolding the inlay for the photographs the paper tore straight up the centre and proved to be as thin and delicate as tracing paper! The inlay is therefore literally held together at the bottom for the picture to be taken, and is consequently not the best image ever displayed on Honour and Darkness! The inlay is signed in gold pen on one side by Hugin, and on the other shows wording from Tolkien's novel. The lush green colours of the inlay work very nicely in fact, and despite Nazgul's ham-fisted attempts to destroy it still look very evocative.